Stop it NASA, you’re killing me. More amazing Cassini pictures of Earth seen from Saturn? Yes! The agency released new photos in natural color today showing the ringed planet backlit by the sun and accompanied by seven of its moons, Venus, Mars and the Earth.
“In this one magnificent view, Cassini has delivered to us a universe of marvels,” said Carolyn Porco, Cassini’s imaging team lead at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.
141 individual images were assembled into a high-resolution mosaic that with one click will fill your entire screen. The final result sweeps 404,880 miles (651,591 km) across Saturn and its inner ring system all the way out to the E ring, the planet’s second outermost ring.
The E ring shines like a halo around Saturn and the inner rings. Because it’s so tenuous, it’s best seen with light shining from behind it the same way sunlight illuminates your breath on cold mornings. Geyser-like sprays of ice particles from the moon Enceladus (left side of hi-res image) continually resupply the ring; you can even see the sprays by zooming in.
All the photos were taken during the July 19 “Wave at Saturn” campaign when earthlings waved and shouted “cheese” at Cassini as it snapped pictures for the panorama almost 900 million miles away. While beautiful to look at, the image also provides scientists with a bonanza of information about ring structures only visible when the sun shines through them instead of reflecting off the rings.
“The E ring in particular shows patterns that likely reflect disturbances from such diverse sources as sunlight and Enceladus’ gravity,” explained Matt Hedman, a Cassini participating scientist at the University of Idaho in Moscow. Curious clumps are also seen in the A-ring near the bottom of the mosaic.
Click HERE to relish several versions of the new Saturn images and learn more about what they reveal.
(Note to class: We are “GO” 4:30 a.m. Weds. Nov. 13 for Comet ISON viewing!)